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DeWine’s fireworks bill veto misses mark on safety

Five days after the rest of the country celebrated Independence Day with backyard gatherings, cookouts and yes, consumer fireworks, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine vetoed Ohio Senate Bill 113. This bill would have made Ohio the 49th state to allow consumers to legally discharge fireworks.

That is correct; Ohio and Massachusetts are the only two states that still have laws making discharge of fireworks illegal. You can purchase them in Ohio, but legally you cannot use them.

The governor obviously has his reasons for his veto of this common-sense update to an antiquated fireworks law. We will address a few of his publicly stated reasons here and how he and his administration wrongly interpret not only the bill, but what is the current reality in Ohio.

First, the governor references two studies in his veto message, one by Battelle Labs and one by Southwest Research Institute. His reference to these studies and the consequent recommendations failing to be included in SB 113 is disingenuous at best. His conclusion that SB 113 “does not require compliance with the safety measures outlined in these studies” is patently wrong.

Battelle testing was wildly flawed and designed to test the efficacy of a fire suppression system on a fireworks fire. Sprinklers have been required in Ohio fireworks stores for decades.

The Southwest study tested various mitigation techniques designed to slow the propagation of a fire. Considering SB 113, all the fireworks sections of the Ohio Revised Code, and NFPA 1124 (the most comprehensive fireworks fire code in the country) adopted by Ohio, the fact is essentially all of the mitigation techniques tested by Southwest, including flame breaks, fuse covers, aisle spacing, etc., are currently required in Ohio. Whoever told the governor otherwise is misinformed.

One piece of the Southwest study involved a steel mesh cage around the fireworks. The steel mesh caging is nothing more than a conceptual testing criterion with no real-world application anywhere in the country. It does not exist and would require design and fabrication from scratch. This proposal would have provided for total enclosure, and the complete lack of physical and visual access to any product on the shelving. No suggestion was made by the administration on how customers would even access the product. And to be clear, it is not used anywhere in the country in any retail fireworks store.

Another of the governor’s 11th hour amendments included the state fire marshal’s demand for an ESFR sprinkler (Early Suppression Fast Response) or deluge system. In a meeting with the state fire marshal, it was explained that this type of sprinkler system isn’t required by fire code, building code or statute for any retail setting (fireworks or otherwise) anywhere in the country, nor would the necessary water pressure to operate such system be available in most areas.

Finally, Gov. DeWine’s statement that SB 113 would make Ohio “one of the least restrictive states in regards to fireworks laws,” is blatantly false.

Neither Indiana nor Pennsylvania have adopted NFPA 1124, a retail fireworks fire code. Ohio has.

Pennsylvania, Michigan, Indiana and Kentucky allow fireworks use 365 days per year, and Pennsylvania is silent on the issue of local control. Michigan and Indiana allow limited local control, but mandate nearly 24 days of use not subject to local control.

Ohio’s SB 113 would allow full local control, including complete restriction on sale and use. The sponsors understand that Ohio is a diverse state and maintains that by allowing each municipality, town and township to regulate fireworks. They can be more stringent than the state law and even may ban them completely.

I believe Gov. DeWine simply doesn’t think Ohioans should enjoy the same patriotic freedoms that 48 other states already allow.

The legislature should override the veto.

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